Pillows play a big part in our daily routine, but they don’t always get the care they need. In addition to regularly washing your pillow cases, pillows themselves should be washed at least twice a year to remove dirt, oil, dust mites and bacteria that build up over time.

Can you wash pillows in the washing machine?

Usually. Most pillows types are machine washable, like synthetic, down and even feather pillows. Some, like memory foam, need to be hand washed, so make sure to check your pillow’s care tag for specific washing instructions.

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How to machine wash pillows: synthetic, down and feather

Washing and drying synthetic, down and feather pillows is not much different than washing a load of clothes. Follow these four steps to easily clean pillows with your washing machine.

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Step 1: Load two pillows into your washing machine
Remove any pillow cases or coverings and load in pillows two at a time, if possible, to balance the load.

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Step 2: Add a small amount of detergent
Too much detergent can cause oversudsing, so only add about a tablespoon. Liquid detergent is best since it’s less likely to leave behind residue.

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Step 3: Select a gentle cycle
A gentle cycle will help protect your pillow’s structure. The bulky cycle isn’t necessary and should be reserved for washing other bedding like comforters. Select the warmest water recommended on the care tag to help improve cleaning performance. If available, select an extra rinse option to ensure all the detergent is rinsed off. Learn more about how to choose laundry cycles

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Step 4: Dry with low or no heat
Transfer pillows to the dryer as soon as possible. If you have them, add dryer balls to the drum to help fluff the pillows. Select a low heat setting for synthetic pillows and a no-heat, air fluff setting for down or feather pillows. If you're not sure which dryer cycle to use, check your pillow's care tag or your dryer's Use and Care Guide for more information. Lastly, make sure pillows are completely dry before removing them to help prevent mildew growth.

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Washing pillows by hand: synthetic, down and feather

If you don’t have access to a washer, or just prefer handwashing, you can still enjoy fresh, clean pillows with only a little extra effort.

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Step 1: Fill a bucket, bathtub or sink with warm water
Make sure water is deep enough to submerge the full pillow. Add a tablespoon of laundry detergent and stir in until it’s completely dissolved.

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Step 2: Soak and gently massage the pillow in soapy water
Remove any pillow coverings and submerge the pillow in the water. Press and squeeze the pillow for a few minutes, or until you’re sure the soapy water has circulated multiple times through every inch of the pillow.

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Step 3: Rinse and repeat
Hold the pillow out of the soapy water and rinse with fresh water, squeezing it out as you go. The pillow may need several rinses. You’ll know when to stop when the water being squeezed out is clear and no longer soapy or sudsy.

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Step 4: Towel then air dry
Lay your pillow out on a towel. Use a second towel to press any excess water out of the pillow. Machine dry it according to the care tag instructions, or air dry it by hanging it in the sun, if possible, to help prevent mildew growth.

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How to wash memory foam pillows

To keep the foam from breaking apart, memory foam pillows should never be washed in a washing machine. However, they do have hypoallergenic properties that make them less susceptible to mildew, allergens, and dust mites—so you may not need to clean them as often or as deeply. Choose one of these cleaning methods based on how dirty your pillow is.

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Quick freshening up
Remove the pillow cover. Sprinkle each side of the pillow with a generous amount of baking soda, let sit for 1 hour, and vacuum clean. This method will help neutralize odors while sucking up dust mites and dirt.

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Light cleaning
Remove the pillow cover. Spot clean stains and spills with this solution: two cups of lukewarm water and a teaspoon of laundry detergent. Use a clean white cloth to work the solution into the stain, from the outside in. Dip another cloth in clean water and blot the stain until the soapy water is gone. Hang in the sun to air dry, if possible.

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Deep cleaning
Remove the pillow cover. Fill a bucket, bathtub or sink with lukewarm water and mix in a tablespoon of laundry detergent. Submerge the pillow then remove it, gently squeezing out the soapy water (do not wring). Repeat this a few times then rinse the pillow with fresh water until the water coming out of the pillow runs clear. Hang in the sun to air dry, if possible.

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